In skydiving, we see each other nearly weekend at the DZ and we know our ‘jump lives’ but it’s amazing to learn about the people of our community beyond the jumpsuit. This month, we profile Skydive Carolina’s, General Manager, Ryan ‘Shaggio Rodriguez’ Levesque.
Where are you originally from?
I am originally from Poland, Maine.
Tell us about your parents. What did they do when you were growing up and how were you as a kid?
My father was a full-time Firefighter and propane delivery driver. My mother worked here and there but was essentially a stay at home mom. The thing you do not realize until you get older is exactly how much they sacrificed to raise you and make sure that you had “Nike’s” while at the same time teaching you that you don’t always have to keep up with the Jones’s in life to be successful. I was probably a bit of a project as a kid and I am not sure I ever will grow up, but I am sure glad I had them to teach me morals, work ethic, respect, and kindness
Do you have any siblings?
I have one older sister that is living the “normal” life of a husband, two kids, one dog, and a white picket fence.
What was your favorite subject in school and how were you as an overall student?
History was always a favorite of mine. I think it is important learning about mistakes of the past so that we do not repeat them over and over again. I was an average student with a little too much of a focus on girls, sport, and life experiences.
Were there any early markers in your life that would indicate you’d become a skydiver?
Well, I never jumped out of the window with a bedsheet if that’s what you mean. But, between the go-Karts, dirt bikes and the overall lack of fear or respect for going fast, it was a pretty easy transition.
Did you go to university and if so, where did you go and what did you study?
Yes, I went on a little cross-county adventure to Witchita State University for my Freshman year of college. A community college in Wyoming for 2 years and then finally back home to the University of Southern Maine and graduated with a bachelor degree in Criminology.
Name every job you’ve ever had since you were a kid:
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I am very hopeful I never grow up. If it happens I will let you know, but in the meantime, I am very happy where I am.
Who inspires you?
People who start off with very little in life, work hard in life to get where they want to be and have generally positive attitudes along the way.
If you won the lottery tomorrow… what would you do with it?
That is a tough one. Either buy Skydive Carolina or sail away on a boat somewhere!
What is something about you that few people know about?
I still have to force myself to be extroverted. It’s more fun but less comfortable than being introverted. If I didn’t talk to you it is not because I do not like you, I simply did not have anything to say.
What are your interests outside of skydiving?
My boy Goofy takes up a lot of my time. I generally like pretty much everything outside with the exception of the beach. I can’t stand to sit there and melt.
What achievement are you most proud of?
I have been fortunate to take home a couple of medals swooping. I would probably have to say that because those instructors who first taught me would never ever believe it.
What do you suck at?
I could never hit a baseball. I can’t understand the concept of failing 70% of the time and being considered a hall of famer. I am currently trying really hard not to suck at golf.
Where did you make your first skydive and what was the circumstance that took you to the dropzone that day?
At the age of 18, I was on my way to college, and we visited my uncle in Wyoming. He had made one static line and was going to make another in Loveland, Colorado. I naturally had to do it with him. 10 years later I had a gentleman that worked for me that was a fun jumper. He took me to the dropzone and I made a tandem. I then went home, thought about it all winter and ended up buying a complete system on eBay and showing up at the dropzone that spring with a trash bag full of gear and handed it to them and said: “teach me to skydive.” Yes, I was that guy.
What’s the most memorable skydive you’ve ever made?
Is the next one a good enough answer? I hope that when it doesn’t become rewarding every time I jump, I will walk away.
You’re an avid canopy pilot, what’s the best advice you can give to those thinking about getting into the discipline?
The ground never forgives you. Get canopy coaching. They cannot prevent the ground from getting you but they sure can help the odds.
List your canopy progression from jump 1 through present day:
How many jumps do you have?
How many cutaways?
I never kept track but around a dozen.
List your skydiving equipment:
Container: Sun Path Javelin Odyssey
Main Canopy: Performance Designs, Valkyrie
Reserve: PD Reserve 113
Altimeter: Alti-2 N3
Helmet: Cookie G3
AAD: CYPRES 2
All of your gear is yellow and blue. Where did this color combination come from?
It was the color of my first rig off from eBay. I just stuck with it.
What year did you first arrive at Skydive Carolina?
My friend Surfia of the Rodriguez Brothers took me to their Cinco De Mayo Boogie in 2003. I moved down in March of 2005. I fell in love with the people, the facilities, and the weather from the start!
You’re known by your Rodriguez name – Shaggio. Who came up with the name Shaggio?
It was given to me by one of my Rodriguez Brothers who thought that I looked like a combination of Shaggy from Scooby Doo and Austin Powers. (Yes, there was tequila involved.)
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
It is very true that you spend 90% of your time with 10% of the workers/customers that tend to be the most needy. My only real complaint is that in this day and age we do not have the ability to get away. With Facebook and smartphones you never really have a complete day off.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
We really try to have a family atmosphere around here. It starts with Danny and Annette and I am trying very hard to continue that for them. Overall, seeing students overcome fear and seeing co-workers grow up and succeed in life.
If you could make a 4-way jump with anyone in the world (alive or deceased), who would be the other three on that skydive?
How about give me three people that are struggling and dream of opening the next door in life and letting me teach them how to overcome that fear of the unknown. Or, give me Trump, Obama and John McCain and take all of them on the same skydive. Nothing gets accomplished up there without getting along. Maybe it would teach them something.
Favorite skydiving movie?
I am a Point Break Kid
I do not read as much as I should. It just does not seem to keep my attention.
“Sometimes in life, you just have to swear under your breath and move on”- My father
Place You’d Most Like to Visit?
I have yet to make it to Yellowstone.
Favorite DZ (outside of Skydive Carolina, of course)
I tend to visit dropzones with swoop ponds! But, you can’t beat the facilities and area that Skydive Chicago has.
Most embarrassing skydive you’ve ever made?
There is nothing like going low on a formation, sailing 50 feet over the top of an entry gate while swooping or worse yet, swimming while swooping. I have done it all, swimming more than most. However, what do we really have to be embarrassed about? We are putting ourselves out there to have fun with our friends and push ourselves to learn. What’s the old saying? Anytime you jump out of an airplane, deploy a parachute and land successfully, you should be happy. Now, if there are safety concerns with any of the preceding, do not be embarrassed, but please learn from them. Yes, Randy Connell, I do try to learn from all of those yellow cards you give me.
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